Saints Playoff Games
January 6, 2001: New Orleans @ Minnesota Vikings
After winning their first playoff game ever the week before, the Saints traveled to Minne­apolis for a second round game against the Vikings.
As winners of the NFC Central Division with an 11-5 record, Denny Green's ninth Vikings team earned a bye in the first round ofthe playoffs.
The Vikings' offense, which ranked 2nd in the NFL with 397 points (behind the Rams' 540), was spearheaded by the Pro Bowl trio of QB Daunte Culpepper and wide receivers Randy Moss and Cris Carter. RB Robert Smith led the NFC with 1,521y rushing. Be­cause defenses were so concerned with Moss and Carter, de­lays and draw plays to Smith were exceptionally effective. When healthy, Culpep­per, at 6-4, 265lbs, was an outstanding scrambler. However, he suffered a high-ankle sprain and didn't attempt a run in the regular season finale.
Minnesota's defense didn't rank as high as their offense: 15th in the NFL in rushing defense (111.8ypg) and 28th in passing defense (244.6ypg). The Vikings had just eight interceptions and 31 sacks.
For the Saints, injuries to TB Ricky Williams and FB Terrelle Smith were tak­ing a toll on the running game. They had been held below 100y rushing in four of their last five games and hadn't had a 100y game by a running back since Wil­liams gained 156 against Atlanta in Week 8. Replacements Terry Allen and FB Brian Milne played hard, but they were not as physical or versatile as Williams and Smith. St. Louis had cheated a safety into the box, leaving their cornerbacks in single coverage on the Saints receiv­ers. As a result, the Saints averaged just 61.5 rushing yards per game and 21.6 yards per carry in the two meetings with the Rams.
The loss of WR Joe Horn was a major setback for the Saints. No other receiver could match Joe's explosiveness. Solid veterans Willie Jackson and Jake Reed would have to take up the slack against Minnesota's 28th-ranked pass defense.
The Saints had lost only one road game all season while the Vikings had lost only once at home. However, the Vikes limped into the playoffs with three straight losses.
The Saints announced shortly before the game that Ricky Williams' broken ankle had healed to the point that he would be available.
First Quarter
The first possessions of the two teams were polar opposites. After the Saints went three-and-out, the Vikings struck quickly starting from their 36. Using maximum protection against the NFL's team leader in sacks–just two receivers, Cris Carter and Randy Moss, to leave eight players to hold off the pass rush, Daunte Culpepper, playing with a molded boot on his right foot to support his high ankle sprain, con­nected with Carter for 9y. Then he handed to RB Robert Smith for a first down at the 47. Culpepper threw quickly to Moss in front of RCB Fred Thomas. S Darren Perry took too high an angle on his help route, allowing Moss to cut inside and long stride to the end zone. Vikings 7 Saints 0 (11:58)

Randy Moss races to the end zone.
Moss said after the game, "I think in the back of their heads, they all said, 'Uh-oh.' That's the first thing you don't want to do in a football game–don't let No. 84 get started. The energy level was already there, and I just had to set it off with a touchdown."
Carter: "We felt like we were going to play well. The one thing we said before we left the locker room was, 'Don't be surprised by the way we play, and don't be surprised by the level of intensity we bring."
S Robert Griffith on Moss's quick touchdown: "We wanted to get off to a good start. That was huge. When we got out there and got them off the field, and Randy got that touchdown, it was like we had never skipped a beat."
The Saints responded with a drive that consumed 4:10 and resulted in a field goal. The key play was the first one, a long pass to WR Robert Wilson straight down the right side. Running two paces behind the receiver, rookie CB Wasswa Serwanga tackled Wilson just as the ball sailed by to make it first and 10 at the Viking 41. Facing pressure almost every time he dropped to pass, Brooks scram­bled for 2y, then handed to Ricky Williams for two more. After a delay of game penalty made it third-and-11, Brooks fired to WR Jake Reed for a first down at the 29. After a misfire, Aaron threw to ex-Viking TE Andrew Glover for 5y. Then a quick out to Jackson moved the chains to the 14. But a 1y loss by Williams and two incompletions brought on K Doug Brien for a 33y field goal. Vikings 7 Saints 3 (7:48)
Minnesota responded with a field goal drive of their own that featured multiple third-down conversions. The first one came on third-and-seven from the 31 when Culpepper, finding no one open against six defensive backs, ran for 10y. Two plays later, a quick pass to Smith over the middle put the ball on the NO 37. Three snaps later, Culpepper lofted a pass to 6'3" Carter guarded by 5'10" DB Alex Molden. Carter leaped for the ball at the 10 and careened to the one.
Not getting into the end zone cost the Vikes four points. First, a false start penalty moved them back 5y. After Smith gained nothing, a pass to 6'4" Moss in the end zone was successfully defended by scrappy 5'9" DB Kevin Mathis. On third down, Culpepper wanted to pass but, finding no one open, ran from side to side until he flipped the ball from the five into the end zone, where it was knocked away from Carter. So 41-year-old Gary Anderson booted a 21y field goal. Vikings 10 Saints 3 (1:36)
After Fred McAfee unwisely returned the kickoff from the end zone to the 17, RB Chad Morton took a swing pass for 2y and Brooks hit Reed on a down and out to the 35. Williams gained seven to end the period.
Vikings 10 Saints 3
Second Quarter
Brooks maintained possession with a third down rollout to the 47. But three plays gained only 2y. So Goins punted to the 14.
DT Norman Hand, the Saints best run stopper, dropped Smith for a 1y loss. Two incompletions forced a punt to Morton, who returned 13y to the 46.
The Saints couldn't take advantage of the good field position. A holding penalty canceled a screen pass to Morton that would have been a first down, and the Vikings soon had the ball back on their 19 after the punt.
A flip to TE Jim Kleinsasser quickly gained a first down at the 30. But a 3y gain by Smith and good coverage by Molden on second down and Thomas, who blanketed Moss down the left sideline on third down, forced a punt that Morton returned 8y to the 35.
The Saints started moving until another killer penalty took the steam out of the attack. Morton scooted around left end for 11y. Three snaps later, Brooks hit Reed for a first down but an illegal shift penalty nullfied the gain. When Brooks was sacked, the Saints punted to the 27.
The Vikings took a big stride toward victory by driving 73y for a touchdown. Smith took an underneath pass for four, then gained seven on the ground to move the chains. An offside penalty on the Saints gave the Vikings five more yards. WR Troy Walters had only one catch all season but on third-and-two, Culpepper threw him a quick pass for a first down on the NO 47 at the two-minute warning.
Back-to-back big plays gave the Vikings a 14-point lead at halftime. First, Culpep­per ran out of the pocket 30y to the 17 for his longest run of the season. Then he threw to Carter in the left corner of the end zone. Mathis had him blanketed but, with his back to the quarterback, didn't see the ball, and Carter jumped over him and snag­ged it. Vikings 17 Saints 3 (1:29)
Mathis: "When Culpepper threw that one on me to Cris Carter, it was a post corner, and I had it covered. I was ready for an interception. But Culpepper threw it perfectly."
Saints defensive coordinator Ron Zook: "Carter actually stopped, and Kevin Mathis was right there. He couldn't have covered Cris any better. Daunte threw it in a perfect place."
With two timeouts, the Saints had a chance to get a field goal before time ex­pired. They reached their 45 on underneath passes to WR Keith Poole and Mor­ton. Follow­ing two incompletions, Brooks dumped the ball over the middle to Morton to the Minnesota 46. Timeout New Orleans with 0:35 left.
Brooks escaped the pocket to the 41 for a first down. But John Randle's first sack of the day set the Saints back 6y. An incompletion and a swing pass to Morton put the ball on the 44-too long for a Brien field goal attempt. The Vikings sent in Moss to play center field on Brooks's Hail Mary pass. The move paid off as Randy batted the ball down short of the end zone.

L: Keith Poole; R: John Randle sacks Aaron Brooks.
Third Quarter
The second half couldn't have started any worse for the Saints. After receiving the kickoff, the Vikings had third-and-one at their 35. Moss flanked wide left. Culpepper, seeing Mathis playing off of him, flipped the ball quickly to Randy. Mathis rushed up, as did S Perry, but Moss split the seam and ran untouched to the end zone. LB Mark Fields was closest to him on his dash to the end zone. Vikings 24 Saints 3 (13:33)
"Randy is a vertical receiver," Vikings Coach Dennis Green said afterward. "He can catch it vertical, and he can run it vertical."
Moss: "I didn't have any idea of how far it (the touchdown play) would go. The corner was behind me, and I didn't know what kind of angle the safety was taking to try to cut me off. My main concern was just to catch the ball and make sure we got the first down. Luckily, I got a touchdown from it."
Carter: "There aren't a lot of people who can make that play. Daunte at the last minute saw something in the defense and made a read, and I had the interior guy to block him, but I missed him. I don't guess Randy would have had to run so fast if I had gotten him, but that is unbelievable to catch the ball in traffic and with them having the angle on him to go all the way. That's why they call him 'Super Freak.'"
The Saints counter-punched with a touchdown drive of their own. Brooks went seven-for-seven on the no-huddle 82y march: over the middle to Wilson for 14y; Jackson on the right side for 13; Morton underneath for three; roll right and hit Jackson for 12; Morton again for six; Jackson again for 20y to the 20; screen to Morton for 18 behind great block by Chris Naeole. From the two, Brooks rolled right, then threw back left to TE Dave Stachelski wide open in the end zone. Vikings 24 Saints 10 (9:33)
The Vikings made a concerted effort to run the ball, handing to Smith five times for a total of 36y with 25 of them coming on a carry where he bounced off two tacklers at the line of scrimmage and broke into the clear. Culpepper was two-for-four to Carter and Kleinsasser for 14y. When a pass to Moss was incomplete on third and nine from the Saint 26, Anderson booted a 44y field goal. Vikings 27 Saints 10 (4:30)
The Minnesota kickoff team continued to play well, dumping McAfee on the 17 for the second straight time. The Saints started strong when Brooks ran out of the pocket up the middle for 13. But a 2y pass to Williams and two incompletions brought on Toby Gowin, who punted 45y to Walters who returned 4y to the Vikings 32.
The Vikings reached the NO 42, with the biggest gain coming on a 19y pass to the Saint sideline to Carter, who continued jawing with Coach Haslett. After two incompletions and two false start penalties, Mitch Berger punted 52y into the end zone.
The Vikings got the ball back immediately when DB Robert Tate intercepted Brooks's pass intended for Reed.
From the 29, Culpepper ran a bootleg around left end for 6y.
Vikings 27 Saints 10
Fourth Quarter
If there was still any doubt as to which team would be victorious, the Vikings removed it by continuing into the end zone. Culpepper twice fired to Carter for first downs with Smith carrying twice for 6y in between. After Smith lost a yard on first and goal from the six, Culpepper scrambled to the two. Smith did the honors from there, taking a handout through a big hole on the left side to give his club the most points they had scored all season. Vikings 34 Saints 10 (10:45)
Brooks, who would set a Saints playoff-record 295y passing, set up to pass 11 straight snaps. He ran for 8y on a quarterback draw on one of them and completed passes to Jackson for nine and five, Morton for six (on fourth down), four, and 13, and Poole for five to put the ball on the 16. Then Aaron threw one too many, right into the hands of LB Kailee Wong at the 11.
Carter continued his outstanding day (eight catches for 120y) by snagging a third-and-five pass over the middle for 23y to the 39. But a Smith no-gainer and two incompletions forced a punt that Morton returned 12y to the NO 34.
After Morton took two passes over the middle for 18y to the Minnesota 48 to tie a playoff record with 13 receptions, the Saints made the final score more respectable. With a number of subs in the game for the Vikings, Brooks hit Jackson over the middle. He shed one tackler, got a key block, and ran to the end zone. The two-point pass to Reed failed. Vikings 34 Saints 16 (2:19)
The Saints' attempt at an onsides kick failed, and Minnesota ran the ball three times and punted. Morton ran one more time to end the game.
Saints Locker Room
Coach Jim Haslett learned earlier in the day that he had won the Coach of the Year award by a landslide with 30 1/2 points to Andy Reid's second-place 9 1/2. "I thought the Vikings played a great game. They made plays when they had to make them, and we just didn't make them when we had to make them. I'm disappointed. I'm not happy with any of our play today."
Offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy: "We left a lot of offense out on the field in the first half. We should've had more points."
It was just the second time all season that the Saints failed to record a sack. They had two or more in 14 of 16 regular season games and two more in the playoff game against the Rams. "They were not going to let us get to Daunte Culpepper," said defensive coordinator Ron Zook. "I didn't watch all 16 (of the Vikings' regular-season) games, but I watched most of them. And let me tell you something. Culpepper never threw the ball like he threw it today. He was hotter than a firecracker."
DE Norman Hand: "They did all the right things. The Minnesota coaching staff did a great job of scouting us." He added, "Those receivers (Carter and Moss) are great. They're probably the best tandem in the league."
DT La'Roi Glover: "Culpepper's scrambling ability was painful." He added, "We came out and played like we had never been there before. ... We were in uncharted territory. This organization has never been this far. They were more poised than we were. When they got up, and we were under pressure, I don't think we dealt with it the way we normally have in the past."
General Manager Randy Mueller looked to the future. "This is good for us. All this that happened today, it'll be good for us down the road. This is the big time. I think we can learn a lot from this. I'm proud of these guys. They kept breaking down barriers that everybody else put up."
Vikings Locker Room
Coach Dennis Green explained why his team played so much better after losing their last three regular season games. He and his staff "spent the open week breaking down the team, concentrating on what the team had done well and not so well, both offensively and defensively." He called it, "Getting a new perspective."
Cris Carter: "We had time to recharge our batteries. We had tremendous practices with tremendous levels of intensity. I told Coach Green we needed to wear pads because the guys were moving so fast in shorts we couldn't protect ourselves."
Pro Bowl C Matt Birk: "All I know is they had 66 sacks to lead the league, and they've still got 66. That was our goal."
The Vikings were 10-1 during the season when Robert Smith gained at least 68 rushing yards. He had 74 in this game. "This is one of the best front fours we've faced all year," he said, "and it's probably better than anything we'll see from here on in. But we were patient because we've got an offensive line full of big, strong guys wo can wear down a defense." He added, "We've waited for this opportunity since 1998. We played our best game today."
Minnesota had given up 104 points and 1,353y in their last three regular-season games. So they were happy to have held the Saints to three points before the offense had effectively put the game away with 27.
"They've been playing with a high level of intensity," said S Orlando Thomas. "So we knew we had to come in and match that, and we hadn't done that against a good offense in the last few weeks. They can say all they want about our defense, but we were there today. ... They tried to come out running the ball, and we were able to get them into second-and-long and third-and-long. And when they did throw it, we were able to knock down some balls and put them in a tough situation."

Daunte Culpepper

Brian Milne

Fred Thomas

Darren Perry

Robert Wilson

Willie Jackson

Jake Reed

Robert Smith

Cris Carter snags touchdown pass over Kevin Mathis.

Mark Fields

Dennis Green

Chris Naeole

Dave Stachelski

Toby Gowin

Fred McAfee

Jim Haslett

Mike McCarthy

La'Roi Glover